DH has been hunting for many years. Before I met him, he was a deer hunter. Even while still in high school, he would get home from school, grab his bow or rifle (depending on which season it was), and hit the woods until after dark. I've heard stories of him doing homework in the deer blind. (Now whether he really did or whether he just said this to convince our straight-A chasing son to go out and hunt, I'm not sure.)
In college, and for the first ten years of our marriage, his hunting time was greatly diminished. He had neither the easy access to huntable land, nor the time to sit every evening. When we purchased this little place here, he was able to start bow hunting again, for the first time in a long time, because every weekend he could roll out of bed, put on his cammies, grab his bow, walk 250+ yards through the field, and into the woods to his tree stand. No long drive up north to his boyhood home necessary.
Even so, it has taken until now for him to harvest a buck with an arrow. Saturday evening, he shot this nice eight point whitetail (could have been a 10, had it not broken off two tines) with the crossbow that he purchased last year.
It wasn't a glorious shot, exactly. He came in from the hunt with a strange air about him. I thought he'd perhaps gotten a deer, yet, he seemed kind of down. It was a weird vibe; part tribulation, part self-disgust.
Turned out he'd gut shot the deer. In his lack of experience with the crossbow, he'd forgotten it doesn't behave exactly the same as a compound bow, and not exactly the same as a shotgun or rifle, either. He'd twisted and turned a little, and somehow in doing so, his arrow had gone slightly awry. It hit the deer, and went all the way through. Not what a sweet spot shot should do. The deer was phased, but neither dropped, nor dashed off like a hit deer will do. Instead, it ran a short way, then walked off out of sight further into the woods. After waiting about fifteen minutes, with the sky now almost completely dark, DH climbed down out of his stand and went to retrieve his arrow, which he could see stuck in the ground about 12 yards away.
The arrow had blood on it, and another, darker substance. There was no blood anywhere on the ground that DH could tell with his little tracking flashlight. With a sinking feeling, he realized the deer was gut shot. They can go quite a ways with a gut shot before eventually dying.
We hunt for meat, to feed our family. This isn't a sport so much as an extension of gardening. It's more about the nutritive food value than about a trophy for the wall. We get rather attached to 'our' deer, and don't shoot them just for the thrill of killing something. We want our shots to be good, and the death to be as quick and relatively painless for the deer as possible. Which is why I've only ever taken two deer myself; I only shoot them standing still and standing at a certain angle and distance. One of mine dropped dead on the spot, the other ran 50 yards and then dropped dead. Both very easy to recover. I don't want to take a chance shot at one on the move, wound it, and have it suffer infection or be brought down by coyotes because I've weakened it. Death by coyote is certainly not as pleasant as death by well placed shot from a hunter.
So DH really felt bad that the deer was not only suffering, but that we might not be able to retrieve it and use the meat, thus making it a senseless death.
We ate dinner quickly, then DH, DD2 and I went out to see if we could track the deer despite it being night. We spent an hour and a half carefully combing an ever widening area of the woods, beginning at the point where DH had shot the deer. We could not find any blood, only a little hair and a very few spots of something that looked rather like diarrhea. More confirmation that it was, indeed, a gut shot. Possibly intestinal, by the looks of what we were seeing spotted here and there on the ground.
But the trail was pretty much non-existent, and in the dark we weren't making any progress. So we called off the search until daylight.
In the morning, DH was able to find the deer rather quickly. In fact, it was just about 40 yards from where we'd ended our search the night before. All he had to go on, though, was two hairs, scuffled leaves, and a handful of small blood spots, which eventually led to a larger spot of blood where the deer had rested. And from there, it hadn't gone much further before collapsing. Near impossible to see with a flashlight on fallen leaves at night.
He feels much better now. Still remorseful that it wasn't a better placed shot, that the deer had to suffer for more than a few minutes. But glad that he was able to recover the deer in a timely manner, and that the weather was cold enough overnight none of the meat spoiled.
Fresh inner loins cooked in onions were the victor's lunch on Sunday.
DH's 8pt buck;
hanging weight 145 pounds